Ray Ratto

49ers Faithful-ish watch while Kelly refuses to make QB change


49ers Faithful-ish watch while Kelly refuses to make QB change

Chip Kelly injured his left ear before Thursday night’s Cardinals-49ers game and had to hold a towel against it to stanch the flow of blood.

He did not, however, have enough terrycloth to cauterize what came next – another standard substandard performance by the San Franciscii, a 33-21 loss to Arizona that lowered the 49ers’ record to Gabbert Watch.

That’s where we are now, after another tedious offensive effort that Kelly accurately pinned on everyone involved.  He has been determined not to let this season deteriorate into a Blame Blaine campaign, but his highest praise for the quarterback and his offense came with the use of the word “sporadic,” and “sporadic” is typically the sendoff line before a trip to Clipboard City.

And if Kelly could do that to his offensive line, receivers, defense and special teams as well . . . well, it would be 2018, and this would all be in the organizational rear-view mirror.

But it isn’t, and it isn’t going to be. The 49ers don’t play again for 10 days, and when they do it will be in Buffalo, and it may well be with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, although Kelly reiterated (as in repeated yet again) that Gabbert remains the superior practice practitioner.

But will that make much difference? Not without a massive cleansing elsewhere, and the Cardinal game showed that there are still miles to go for this team before the basement is found.

Gabbert threw two interceptions, but he wasn’t responsible for the fumble on the second-half kickoff by Mike Davis, or the taunting penalty by Carlos Hyde that negated a first down, or the running into the kicker penalty by Rashard Robinson that turned a short Arizona field goal into a David Johnson touchdown run. Nor was Gabbert the guilty party in Johnson’s second-ever 100-yard game, a 157-yard, two-score evening that frankly looked like it could have been even better.

But he did manage to have a lower quarterback rating than a guy (Drew Stanton) who, filling in for the concussed Carson Palmer, completed only 11 of 28 passes for 38 fewer yards than Gabbert, and but for the grace of Larry Fitzgerald could have had the worst game by any quarterback this year.

And at some point, a coach is backed into a corner where he has to do something just for the sake of doing something. After all, when said coach can say “They got 17 points off 41 yards,” he has thought about the mistakes his team made and is beginning to be weighed down by them as he tries to change them and live with them until they are changed.

Indeed, whatever he changes he proposes to the week-by-week roster, he will get no argument from Jed York, who watched 45,000 or so of his 70,000 seats go paid for but unused by a fan base that (a) didn’t want to fight the traffic, but worse, (b) didn’t want to watch his football team. That’s an awful lot of voting with your couch, and not all of that is because of the in-game experience.

Put another way, the 45,000 Faithful-ish didn’t stay home to watch Temple-Memphis, or Louisiana Tech-Western Kentucky (which was a way better game), or Red Sox-Indians, which was also a way better game. The NFL’s Thursday night ratings are down, and this was the poster child for their continued erosion.

In fact searching for sporting events that weren’t way better games would take some doing, and therein lies the organizational problem. The 49ers have been abandoned by their Faithful (at least on weekday nights) because there is no light at the end of this particular tunnel. Nobody truly believes that Kaepernick changes this team in any substantive way.

Even Kelly, in resisting the notion that this is a transitional year, thought to remind us, “I wasn’t here last year, so I’m not really transitioning from anything.”

Except maybe unemployment, but that’s another tale from a bygone time.

Still, the season still has 68 percent of its life span to live, and even if Kelly isn’t going to be the one to gin up hope for the hell of it, it seems increasingly clear that he is running out of ideas to get the team to gin up hope on its own.

The greater trick, anyway, is for York and his marketing wizards to figure out a way to get those 45,000 people back, because they might have discovered Thursday night that their living rooms are a better entertainment choice . . . or a local eatery . . . or a local saloon . . . or just sitting in their cars, looking on their phones for another team to like.

Hey, La Tech put up 55 tonight. You gotta start somewhere.

One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament


One useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend in NCAA Tournament

College basketball peaked last week, as it typically does. There were 52 games, many of them hilariously delightful, only a few of them viewing slogs, and the sturdiest pillars of the narrative temple as it relates to the remaining 16 teams are:

* A 98-year-old nun who also functions as an unpaid assistant coach.

* A head coach who curses on air, gets soaking wet after wins and confesses that he worries about peeing himself on the sideline.

* A new version of the old debate about whether your view of Syracuse’s zone defense defines you as a basketball fan.

* Your dead bracket.

The nun, the glorious Sister Jean of Loyola Chicago, is new, and so is Eric Musselman (except in northern California, where he’s had pretty much every available pro job). But Jim Boeheim’s murderous zone defense, which he has employed since the Hoover administration, remains the litmus test about how you like your college basketball served.

Think of it as your AARP ID, if you must. It’s old-fashioned, it isn’t easy to watch, but it works.

And all the fun of a bracket that has more teams below the 4-seed than at or above it . . . well, Week Two is when most of that traditionally self-corrects. Even this year, there is the very real possibility that the gutty little underdog in San Antonio could be . . .

. . . wait for it . . .


And no, this is not the proof that the selection committee got it wrong. Not that they got it right – they’re pretty much not qualified based on work experience to do the job anyway, and their ability to ignore logical criteria at will to get a desired team or result is a long-standing tradition of this three-week bacchanal.

But if there is a useful takeaway from this seeming madhouse of a weekend, it is that it is not yet a sign that the revolution is underway or that the meek are inheriting the earth. If you ignore the seed math and look at the names next to the seeds, you still see the same basketball powers. In other words, the bracket will normalize as it always does, the power in the sport is never far away from the seat of that power, and those of you who root for the meek – well, your hope that charm can beat muscle rests on Eric Musselman and Sister Jean.

And the NCAA Tournament is not the vehicle to bet that prop.


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference


For the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference

If you’re a progressive thinker, the only thing that can save the Pacific 12 Conference from the grossest form of humiliation is for one of the six schools it sent to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament – Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State – to make a deep run. In Stanford’s case, to become the first four-seed to win a title.

If you’re a more desperate type, it is to hope that Oregon, Stanford, USC or Washington wins the NIT. Nobody will know it, but we did say “desperate.” And if you need to get to Utah in the Women’s NIT . . .

Well, you get the point. The Pac 12 is the first conference to bow out of the NCAA Tournament before the first weekend since the Big 12 was first formed in 1996-7. And because nobody remembers this sort of stuff year to year, it wipes out last year, when the conference went 9-4 and sent Oregon to the Final Four.

And when we say “sent,” we mean no such thing. In the NCAA Tournament, and in college sports in general, teams achieve. Conferences just get their cut.

Still, as the college sports industry is still covered based on the rules of tribalism, where the keeping of scores breaks down by laundry first and then by affiliation, the Pac-12 has been historically God-awful, which for things referencing the deity is a considerable stretch. Not only did they send only three teams to the NCAA Tournament and saw them evaporate before Friday dawned, they were 1-8 in bowl games, the worst record of any major conference since forever.

Plus, there’s the FBI, plus there’s the ongoing sense that the Pac-12 is the last of the Power 5 and getting worse, plus there’s the fact that it isn’t in the Southeast or Midwest, where this stuff really matters.

But we noticed it on Thursday because people kept bringing it up, especially after Arizona was owned by Buffalo despite having the putative top draft pick in DeAndre Ayton and specifically because a Sean Miller-coached team was so poor defensively.

And now comes the fun of watching the 12 conference university presidents panic as the other presidents make fun of them in the mahogany playground in which they all play. And don’t think that doesn’t happen. College sports is a big business played by kids for the financial benefit of older kids who keep score on things like this.

So the women start Saturday, and in a just and fair society that would get sufficient attention and play enough games to make the conference members feel better about themselves. We don’t have that society yet, so for the moment, the Pac-12 is the Mid-American Conference, and won’t get a chance to prove otherwise until December.

But hey, at least their task force on the structural future of college basketball was received . . . well, with a tepidness unknown to mankind. So yeah, they're on a hell of a roll.